Mar 9, 2016

Smashburger Has Arrived in Rochester

My motto after all is, "Life is not worth living without the occasional burger, fries and shake," so it would be out of character of me not to be curious about Rochester's newest burger institution coming to town. Sure, we have our local landmarks Tom Wahl's and Bill Gray's – both of which I visit frequently. And I can't leave out the national chain Five Guys, which never disappoints. It's dubbed my family's "church". True story. So do we need another fast casual restaurant focused on pressed ground beef and deep fried potatoes? Sure, why not. It is after all the all-American meal*. I was interested to see what sets Smashburger®  apart from these other successful establishments.

After brief introductions by corporate staff members and franchisees Brad and Drew DeGrazia (the brothers behind Rochester's Moe's Southwest) we were treated to a substantial tasting menu at the new Victor location in Cobblestone Court. Each burger was cut into quarters for our table of four to share.

Classic Smash™
Smashburger® uses only fresh beef "smashed" on a 400ºF flat top grill searing in the natural flavors. The Classic Smash™ is a straightforward combination of cool toppings in the form of pickles, tomato, red onion and green leaf lettuce, plus a smear of their Smash Sauce (made with dill relish, lemon juice, mustard, mayo), melted American cheese atop their seasoned beef patty all sandwiched between a soft egg bun. I picked up hints of breakfast sausage seasonings such as sage, but my table mates thought I was crazy. As far as first impressions go, this did not overly excite me since the burger itself was on the dry side and lukewarm.

BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar Burger
The BBQ, Bacon and Cheddar Burger united sweet with salty, crispy with tender and we saw a hotter, juicy burger in this round. The barbecue sauce was subtle whereas the cured applewood bacon and crunch from the Haystack Onions played well with the melted cheddar, which was a welcome alternative to the tasteless American in the first burger.

Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger
Anyone who knows me or has read my reviews knows I'm mad about anything with mushrooms, so the Truffle Mushroom Swiss Burger was right up my lane. The distinctively fragrant truffle makes an appearance in the mayonnaise spread on their effective egg bun. Thinly sliced crimini mushrooms are sautéed and blanketed by melted Swiss cheese atop their beef patty, this one even juicier than the last. It was altogether earthy, nutty and savory and my favorite of the tasting.

Regional Burger
Rochester, we need to talk about this Regional Burger. As the premiere location in town, they have yet to develop a #ROC-centric recipe, so we were treated to their New Yorker Burger served in NYC. It included NY white cheddar, sautéed onions, tomato, fresh spinach and peppercorn garlic aioli on a brioche bun. It didn't thrill me so I'm hoping that we'll be rightly represented with a future customized option. Could it be a "plate" burger with a version of Rochester's famous "hot sauce"? We'll just have to wait and see what they come up with! What type of burger do you think could rightly serve our region? 

Avocado Ranch Black Bean Burger
Beef be gone. It was now time to venture to vegetarian land. I like to consider myself a part-time vegan/vegetarian. Yes I know, ethics aside, I cannot claim to be either unless I commit myself to the humane reasonings behind these lifestyles. I do, however, know that I feel 10-times better when I do not consume meat and dairy on a regular basis. So if I could break it down and simplify my dietary behavior it would look a little like 80/20: Twenty percent of the time I am indulging in whatever my heart and stomach desires. With that said, you can imagine just how many veggie and/or burger burgers I've consumed. The Avocado Ranch Black Bean Burger is topped with pepper jack cheese and ranch dressing, omitting it from the vegan category. Ripe avocado and tomato were the stars here as the bean patty, seasoned with southwestern spices, had an off-putting mushy texture. Mixing in grains to contrast the softened beans would better this burger.

Spinach, Cucumber & Goat Cheese Smashchicken®
Our last two burger offerings of the day were of the poultry pedigree, or Smashchicken®. First came the Spinach, Cucumber and Goat Cheese Chicken revealing a thinly pounded chicken breast amongst rows of crisp cucumber and red onion, ripe tomato, crumbles of goat cheese and an indiscernible balsamic vinaigrette listed on the menu, all on a plush multigrain bun. It was explained to us that the thinness of the chicken allowed for it to be cooked within the same timeframe as the beef burgers. As far as "grilled" chicken sandwiches go, this was on par to other fast food versions.

Buffalo & Blue Cheese Crispy Smashchicken®
More enjoyable of the two, and one of the tasting's standouts, was the Buffalo and Blue Cheese Crispy Chicken. A generously sized deep-fried chicken cutlet was seasoned nicely with a crusty coating. It laid the foundation for Frank's® Red Hot Buffalo Sauce mixed with crumbs of musty (in a good way) blue cheese. Fresh tomato and green leaf lettuce on their egg bun completed the picture. 

Seasonal Oreo® Cookie Mint Shake; Chocolate Oreo Shake
Hand-spun shakes and malts on the menu are made with Häagen-Dazs® ice cream. Burgers, fries and shakes are a timeless trio for a reason. We sampled the Strawberry (not pictured) and Chocolate Oreo® varieties to round out the visit forming a lingering sweet note before rolling ourselves out the doors. Easy to slurp through their signature red straw, they were as creamy and indulgent as I expected.

Thank you, Smashburger®, for allowing me a sneak peek at your newest location right here in Rochester. I left with a better understanding of what new and different options you offer, and more importantly, a very full belly!

*I do not in any way condone a diet consisting of only meat, potatoes, and milkshakes. I do believe that American food culture is at an exciting turning point focusing on our agricultural roots highlighting the cultivation of produce and pure grain crops successfully pressing society to eat consciously for health and wellness.

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